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Kuttner to Obama: Think Bigger!

Today, Robert Kuttner, author of Obama’s Challenge: America’s Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency, has posted an article on The Huffington Post in which he challenges President-elect Obama to think bigger about the upcoming stimulus package.

From the article:

There are three serious dangers in the debate about the stimulus package. The first is that President Obama will think too small. The second is that he will think too bipartisan. The third is that the public will be swayed by myths, such as the claim that infrastructure spending just takes too long to gear up, or that the deficit is the paramount problem.

The economy is now collapsing at an accelerating rate. With the 2008 job loss at the worst annual level since 1945, and even sound businesses unable to get ordinary credit from a traumatized banking system, this will quickly become a classic downward depression spiral unless government acts at a very large scale, and fast. The GDP probably shrank at a rate of at least five percent in the fourth quarter of 2008, and the nosedive will be worse this quarter.

There is simply no good news anywhere in the economy, as the costs of the financial crash keep reverberating. Yet a stimulus in the range of $400 billion a year is less than three percent of GDP. (It’s bizarre that the incoming administration uses two-year numbers. They only make the figure sound too large, rather than too small.)

The reality is that we need additional spending of at least a trillion dollars a year for at least two years. The only encouraging sign is that more and more mainstream economists and Democratic politicians are starting to say that the greater risk is that we will aim too low rather than too high. Even Martin Feldstein, who chaired Ronald Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers, is a born-again Keynesian.

My educated guess is that the first stimulus package will be too small, and that as the economy-wide collapse deepens, we will be back for a second one by April or May. That would be a shame. It would be far better to have adequate stimulus now.

Read the whole post here.


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